Vary Your Bassin’ Game Plans

In tournament competition and recreational bass fishing alike, the importance of a solid back-up plan can often save the day.

The recent Minnesota B.A.S.S. Nation Tournament of Champions, held Sept. 4-5 on Lake Vermilion, is a great example. I was among the field of 170 anglers competing for 12 berths in the 2015 Northern Divisional, and the chance to advance all the way to the Bassmaster Classic.

Vermilion has such high-quality fisheries for large- and smallmouth bass, I felt I needed the one-two punch of both species to be competitive.

For largemouths, I avoided hard-fished docks, banks and easy-to-spot timber, and instead dialed in patterns for reeds and coontail in 5 to 8 feet of water. This was deeper than most anglers were fishing. Sunken logs also held fish.

Sonar was critical to finding many prime lies. I run a Humminbird 360 Imaging system, which has an amazing ability to reveal subtle details like logs off to the side of the boat, rocks and pockets in weeds, and other bass-holding cover and structure. It was also absolutely crucial to putting together my smallmouth pattern, which keyed on offshore reefs with large rocks.

My go-to presentation for largemouths was a California Reservoir Lures’ Grass Poison jig head tipped with a Trigger X Flappin’ Craw trailer. These heads slide through grass and reeds more cleanly than other designs, so you’re not constantly cleaning off your jig. Rapala Skitter Walk topwaters were the ticket for reef-run smallies. If a bass rolled on the bait but refused to inhale it, a sub-surface walker like the X-Rap SubWalk was a great second choice.

Together, the large- and smallmouth programs helped me weigh consistent bags both days, despite weather changes and other factors. I ended up taking first with a two-day total weight of 33.25 pounds. It was awesome to come out on top of a group of such talented veterans and hot new sticks, and I’m looking forward to competing with the Minnesota state team next summer in the Northern Divisionals.

No matter if you’re fishing a club event or just getting out for a relaxing morning of low-key bass fishing, keeping your options open can be key to similar success.


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